'Army,' 'Brotherhood' face off in Egypt's schools

The 'Askar we Ikhwan' game recalls the traditional 'Cops and Robbers,' symbolizing the conflict between 'good guys' and 'bad guys'

'Army,' 'Brotherhood' face off in Egypt's schools

World Bulletin/News Desk

Seif and his schoolmates used to spend recess playing football.

But now a new game has made its way onto the playground: 'Askar we Ikhwan,' or 'Army and Brotherhood' – an Egyptian answer to 'Cops and Robbers.'

"We're playing 'Askar we Ikhwan'," 12-year-old Seif told Anadolu Agency, referring to the new game he and his friends made up during recess at their school in 6 October City on Cairo's outskirts.

According to Seif, players form two teams of six or seven each.

One team plays Muslim Brotherhood protesters; the second plays the role of Egypt's army forces trying to disperse them.

The Brotherhood team sets out from the middle of the playground, flashing the 'Rabaa' sign – the four-fingered salute associated with the Rabaa al-Adawiya sit-in, violently dispersed last month by security forces.

The rival team then charges the "demonstrators" in an effort to break up the crowd.

As some young demonstrators run to escape arrest, others engage in "clashes" with those playing the role of army forces.

A third, neutral team plays the role of medics, treating the "injured" in make-believe field hospitals.

"The game ends when the soldiers catch all the Ikhwan, or all the Ikwhan manage to escape the army's pursuit," Seif explained.

Despite warnings by school supervisors against playing 'Askar we Ikhwan' again, Seif has no plans to give up the "fun" pastime.

In fact, Seif appears proud of his game, which has become increasingly popular in the school.

Alarm bells

The game, experts believe, reflects real life in Egypt, which has been in turmoil since the powerful army ousted elected President Mohamed Morsi on July 3 following massive and well-coordinated protests against his presidency.

"The 'Askar we Ikhwan' game recalls the traditional 'Cops and Robbers,' symbolizing the conflict between 'good guys' and 'bad guys'," socio-political researcher Hisham Gaafar told AA.

"This could nourish the notion that the Muslim Brotherhood are the 'bad guys,' which could lead to a stigmatization campaign against the group and justify violence against its members," Gaafar warned.

"That's why all sides should work to confront these phenomena, especially at schools and universities, with a view to maintaining a degree of social harmony," he added.

Since then, Morsi supporters have been holding daily protests to condemn the "military coup" against Egypt's first-ever democratically elected leader.

The military, for its part, insists it was forced to remove Morsi in response to the "popular will" demonstrated by protesters on the streets.

Meanwhile, hundreds of leading Brotherhood members have been rounded up since the bloody dispersal of Rabaa and Nahda Square, another pro-Morsi protest camp, which left hundreds dead and thousands injured.

Several initiatives have already been launched aimed at easing the impact of ongoing political unrest on Egypt's children.

Sahar Talaat, director of the non-governmental Tawasol Training Center, said they were championing a campaign aimed at promoting social harmony, averting political violence and providing assistance to those most affected by the lingering turmoil.

"In Egyptian society, we don't pay much attention to mental health or means of containing the effects of crises on children," she lamented, "even though psychological effects can often be more severe and longstanding than physical ones."

"That's why it has become necessary to swiftly move to provide Egypt's schoolchildren with psychological support," Talaat told AA.

Güncelleme Tarihi: 27 Eylül 2013, 10:18

Muhammed Öylek